MIDDLETOWN — Wednesday night was the culmination of an entire season of struggles for the Wilcox-Kaynor Tech football team.
Going in 0-9 and coming off a near 50-point loss to Platt Tech in which the Indians were down several starters on offense, it felt like their rock bottom.
But everything came together for Wilcox-Kaynor in the finale on Wednesday night against Vinal-Goodwin Tech, another winless team. Wide receiver Antonio Mejil returned after missing last week’s game. Multiple starting offensive linemen returned from COVID-19 quarantine or injury.
Ultimately, it was wide receiver Brandon Alvarado who gave the Indians their first win of the season at the 11th hour, scoring five touchdowns to lead Wilcox-Kaynor to a 42-12 victory in a Route 66 Bowl rout.
“(Alvarado) stepped up,” said Wilcox-Kaynor coach Trevor Jones. “It’s all about execution. That’s what I screamed about at halftime, and we came out in the second half and executed.”
And then he added, “Brandon is a hell of an athlete.”
Alvarado had the best game of his career so far. He accounted for the bulk of the points on the Wilcox-Kaynor half of the scoreboard with two receiving scores and three rushing scores.
Both of his touchdown receptions were explosive plays of 40 yards or more, and they weren’t his typical screen play either. Both of his catches were slants in the middle of the field and he was uncatchable in the open field.
Alvarado finished the game with 115 rushing yards on 17 carries and 125 receiving yards on seven receptions for a total of 240 all-purpose yards.
“I’m pretty hyped. They talked so much; we just let our game make the game,” Alvarado said. “Played our hearts out. This game meant a lot.”
Wide receiver Jake Ferrauolo scored the final touchdown of the game on a 28-yard slant in which he was facing single-coverage.
Quarterback Caden Kennedy finished the game 11-for-23 with 205 passing yards and three touchdowns, though he was better than his completion percentage shows.
Jones had exceptional praise for his sophomore quarterback after the game.
“What I love about him is — and I haven’t had this for three or four years now — is that he comes off the field and talks to me about what he sees out there,” Jones said. “We’re talking football on the sideline. ‘Coach, this is what I see; I think we can do this.’ When you got a kid like that, now you got a coach on the field and you’re excited. He’s just grown so much in the last month.”
It’s rare to see a player who can come off the bench at the beginning of the year and lock down the quarterback position, especially a player as small as Kennedy. Measuring in at 5-6, 115 pounds, he’s outsized by a lot of the other players on the field, but he provided a huge spark for the Indians’ offense when they needed it.
In Wilcox-Kaynor’s nine previous games, the Indians scored a combined 87 points.They scored nearly half of that in Wednesday’s game alone.
This was the best possible way for the Tribe to enter the offseason, especially considering so many of them will be back next year.
Jones talked about the youth of his team all year long, stressing the fact that his offensive line has raw talent, but hasn’t had enough playing time to put it all together as a unit. Giving the running backs enough room to rack up 141 rushing yards is a great result to build upon moving forward. Andrew Boyle contributed the 26 rushing yards that did not belong to Alvarado.
In the end, Wilcox-Kaynor Tech had its fun. After suffering loss after loss this season, the Indians let loose a Brandon Alvarado-shaped shockwave and returned the favor to Vinal-Goodwin Tech, which ended its season 0-10.
As a result, the Route 66 Bowl trophy will be returned to Wilcox Tech, where it hasn’t been since 2018.
Xavion Brown, the 320-pound offensive lineman who received two goal-line carries in the final minutes of the game and was rejected for zero yards on both tries, could barely contain himself when he saw Jones walking over with the trophy.
He got up off one knee while his assistant coaches were talking to him, only to be swiftly told to get back on his knee. But Brown’s eagerness represents the entire team’s emotion after Wednesday’s win. They celebrated like Super Bowl champions after crowding around the trophy that was now theirs.
A season filled with anguish ended in ecstasy. The Indians are once again Route 66 Bowl champions.